City of Bones is the first of six books in the Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare. Like her past novels, these fantasy stories take you into the world of the Shadowhunters -a breed of people who are descendants of angels and who posses the ability to fight and kill other supernatural beings like vampires, warlocks, demons and so on.
City of Bones starts off with an introduction to Clary Fray and her best friend Simon Lewis -two ordinary teenagers who squabble with their parents, go out to clubs to mingle and dance and to coffee houses to listen to bad poetry readings. It’s on one of these normal adventures with Simon that Clary catches sight of some odd characters and before she knows it she is whisked into the world of Shadowhunters. One in particular, Jace, catches her attention and before long the two of them become inseparable.
Jace, a teenage, orphaned Shadowhunter who is being raised by an adoptive Shadowhunter-family, becomes Clary’s personal watchdog over the course of the rest of the book. Normally he wouldn’t belittle himself by hanging with “mundanes” (ordinary people) but he suspects that Clary isn’t so ordinary since she can see through their glamours -their slight of hand, the tricking of the eye when it comes to blending in with the world around them.
There are a handful of other teenage Shadowhunters hanging around as well. Alec and Isabelle being the two most notable, serve as Jace’s substitute brother and sister and live with him at the Institute -a sort of safe haven for Shadowhunters and a school/training facility for the younger ones. But it’s Jace that Clary is instantly drawn to, and they become the focus of the plot.
From here Clary’s mother is kidnapped by some very not-so-nice monsters and the adventure begins. Clary is on the search to get her mother back and in doing so a greater dilemma arises that pulls in the other Shadowhunters as an old enemy seems to be back from the dead.
From this point on, the action heightens. A werewolf pack, a vampire hotel, a warlock who throws a great party (we all love Magnus Bane, don’t we?) greater demons, lesser demons, incredible diner food, Alec’s admittance that he’s in love with Jace, Clary learning about who she really is, Simon being turned into a rat and captured by vampires for a time, flying motorcycles and …well, I could go on and on.
But I’m not going to because:
A. I don’t want to give away too much incase you haven’t read this book (or seen the movie) yet.
B. At some point in this story, something started to really bother me -something that I see not just in this wonderfully written tale, but in our world as we go day by day.
There’s a scene in the book where Jace and Clary go into a church to recover weapons so they won’t be going off to fight with just their wits and fists. As they’re going along, the conversation of faith is brought up and Jace makes the statement that he isn’t sure if there is a God. The main point of this conversation comes down to him saying something along the lines of this:
“There might be a God and there might not, but it doesn’t matter. Either way, we’re on our own.”
That’s his statement and it’s one that I’ve heard before. Not just in the City of Bones novel, but from other fictional characters in TV series and even from people I interact with online and in real life. It’s a saddened point of view that I’m afraid is starting to seep into peoples’ minds and hearts. When asked about hell, the devil, ghosts, demons and other members of the underworld crew -people usually take no issue. Sure, they believe in those things and they scramble to talk about them, watch shows based around their existence, read the books that stand such beings up front and even as the main characters. But God? That’s where the shoulders shrug and people start mumbling, “maybe” “I don’t know” “not sure” “I think we’re on our own”.
In the Bible, James 1:17 says this, “Every generous act and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights; with Him there is no variation or shadow cast by turning.”
More and more I see people attribute God to only the massive and the miracle. Someone is suddenly healed from cancer, a family of five walk away from a head-on collision unharmed, a needy charity organization receives a huge anonymous donation. It’s things like these that people will point out and say, yes, that’s God! One of my all time hated sayings that I hear people use is: “God really showed up and showed off!” They say it with such joy and even a bit of pride, but when I hear someone say that, it breaks my heart.
I’m in no way downplaying the incredible. Incredible is what God does. But I think sometimes God is left on the outside of the everyday and only allowed in when the event is titanic.
Throughout the Bible, God is the God of his people. Not just on their bad days or when they are facing impossible odds, but all the time. Everyday. He’s there for the little, the big, the odd, the creepy, and everything in between. This is who God really is. He’s the God of your everyday. He’s in the details, and the little things we take for granted. The unexpected friendship, the love of family, the acceptance into college, the compassionate heart that lends a hand. The way things just somehow work out when we thought everything was spiraling down the toilet.
So going back to City of Bones and Jace’s belief that there may or may not be a God, I am left shaking my head at him through the rest of the book. Here is a boy who was left without parents. Since about the age of ten he’s been raised by the Lightwoods -another Shadowhunter family. Along with adoptive “parents” he’s also been given Alec -a true brother and fellow warrior. Isabelle, a sister and also another hunter to stand by his side. Hodge, a knowledgable teacher and overall historian. And Clary comes into his life and becomes a saving grace to him on deep emotional and mental levels. This boy who lost his family is surrounded by love, friendship, and the hope of a bright future. Yet he doesn’t believe in God.
I think one of the most amazing things that I’ve experienced throughout my years of being a born again believer, is realizing how small I am. Not only how small I am, but how big God is. It is from a grateful heart that I worship him. I strive to keep my eyes open on a daily basis, to see his work in all things -the little, the big, the weird- and to remember to give credit where credit is due. This isn’t always easy and not always my instant reaction, but I’m a work in progress.
As for Jace, despite his unbelief, toward the end of the book he makes the comment that he “doesn’t believe in coincidence.” Maybe as the books go on he’ll find his faith. Maybe he’ll realize that he’s not alone. Even when things are scary and there’s demons outside and vampires above, and all your Shadowhunter skills have been used, maybe he’ll recognize that God is there with him.
In closing, I would highly recommend this book. If action and fantasy and the supernatural world is your thing -you’ll probably love this series. I grew highly attached to the characters and was rooting for them all the way through. The plot and pace held my interest and I’m excited to read the next installment. The movie was really good too, and even though I felt they left some things out that should have been included, it was still done very well and it’s worth the watch. You won’t be disappointed.